Every few years boxing surprises itself and its loyal fan base by getting the two very best fighters in the ring to compete for the number one position in their weight class. Such a time is this weekend where two of the most special boxers in the sport, both unbeaten, and both dangerous, do battle for the undisputed welterweight championship.
When Errol Spence and Terence Crawford meet in Las Vegas early Sunday morning (SS Variety 1 from 1 am Sunday), it will be the most significant bout of 2023; a blend of skills, entertainment, power, and big-fight hype that boxing fans wallow in.
The showdown has percolated for years, not least because the pair studiously avoided each other and negotiations were long and arduous. Finally, they hopped on the phone and sorted out their issues, leading to this great moment. It helped, too, that Crawford’s children pestered him about it.
Southpaw Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) is a slight underdog, but that’s only because Crawford is such an extraordinary talent. Spence has been a dominant champion since winning the IBF welterweight title by knocking out Kell Brook in the 11th round in 2017.
He has defended the title six times, all against worthy competition, like Lamont Peterson, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Yordenis Ugas. His only impediment to date has been injury, which has kept him out for long periods.
Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) is on an eight-bout knockout streak and has barely been stretched since winning his first world title in 2014. In that nine-year stretch, he has torn through the lightweight, junior-welterweight, and welterweight divisions, barely raising a sweat in becoming one of the three best pound-for-pound talents in the sport.
Both are exceptionally gifted. There is no better switch hitter in boxing than Crawford, who also blends smart ring IQ and slick counter-punching. The only reason he isn’t a superstar is on account of his laid-back personality. He doesn’t do smack talk.
Spence is more flamboyant in style, super-fast and quick of foot. Throw in heavy hands and good defensive prowess and you may have the perfect counter to Crawford’s style.
“I’m not worried about being the underdog,” said the Texan. “People can say what they say and have their opinions. I just have to go prove them wrong. I’ve been feeling the buzz for this fight. Anywhere I go they’ve been asking me about this fight. I knew I had to make it happen. This is what everyone wanted. We have to prove who the man is in the welterweight division and in boxing. The winner of this fight is the best fighter in boxing, period.”
Crawford is no less bullish: “Y’all are going to witness greatness,” he promised. “We measure greatness by eras. I’m going to show everyone why this era is the Terence Crawford era. I’m excited for the fans. I have a gift for each and every one of y’all because I love the fans.
“Without the fans, there’s no us. I’m going to give you all a gift with the presence of the two of us. He calls himself the big fish. What happens when you take the fish out of the water? You suffocate him. A win shows that I’m the greatest fighter of the era. No man has captured undisputed in two weight classes.”